In which we can’t remember the name of something
Twenty years or so ago, there was a series on the telly. It was on ITV, and was probably made by Yorkshire. It was written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall – they who did Billy Liar, and the TV adaptation of Worzel Gummidge – and it was about Lilliputians living in Victorian England – two men and one woman. There were books based on the same characters, too, and somewhere in the house I have copies still. They were hidden by children – I remember one scene from the telly where the children’s father took up photography, and one from the book where he got his hands on an experimental vacuum cleaner.
But we’ve completely forgotten what it was called. And the internet is being no help at all – Waterhouse and Hall are just too prolific, and the books of the series don’t seem to be listed anywhere. Does anyone have an idea?
In which we are descriptive
I’ve been tagged, by Dimitra. The idea being, I write eight things you don’t know about me. Which is hard. I mean, there are a few people reading this; and moreover there are different sets of people reading this. Some of you know things, some don’t. I’ll have to think of eight things you might know, might not. I never know who I’ve told what to.
Today, you get four things. The rest: to come. Maybe it will turn into a sort of manifesto.
One: there’s only one of me. Lots of you probably know that: I don’t have any brothers or sisters. I’ve always liked my own company, to an extent. Although I’m a social person, I have to be able to retreat somewhere, on my own, to get away from distraction and obligation. And it has to be on my own terms. Maybe it comes from being a solo person to start with. There’s only one of me, but I’m under no illusions that I’m unique in any one individual trait.
Two: I believe in second chances; but I don’t believe in third chances.
Three: I’m a heavily rational person. I believe in what I can touch, what can be proven, what other people can show from logic. I’m enquiring, and sceptical. But I’m not skeptical.* I believe in the third eye, in seeing things that aren’t yet there, that are going to happen. Or rather: I don’t believe in it, I know it can happen. When I was a teenager I used to dream things that hadn’t happened yet. Whether this means some things are unavoidable, I don’t know.
Four: I have an extremely bad memory. I can remember useless things with a worrying ease, but useful information never sticks in my head. I get by, by remembering how to find things out. Knowing where to find information can often be far more useful that knowing the information itself. Sometimes, though, it’s just a nuisance.
* yes, there is a difference.
In which the end of a series is within sight
No, not the book. As I reviewed film number four for this blog, back in 2005, I thought I may as well review the fifth one too. I still haven’t seen any of the earlier films.
It fits in well with something I said about J K Rowling’s books recently: I parenthetically accused them of being big, baggy and badly-paced.* The film of Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix isn’t, though. It zips a lot. It’s as good a film treatment as anyone could have done: it cuts out an awful lot of unnecessary excess baggage without losing much at all of the main story. The book of the film of the book (should it exist) could well be a far better read than the original.
JK could learn from some parts herself. Without spoiling too much: the school is taken over, in a way, by direct “state” control. The Ministry’s representative issues constant diktats aimed at blocking resistance from the children and staff. In the book, it’s handled like this: the notice is pinned to the wall, and then the children discuss the awful effect it is going to have on
the plot their lives, for a few pages. In the film: the notice is pinned to the wall, with children around looking gloomy. Close up on the notice, so we can read it. That’s it. We know the effect it is going to have; we don’t need to be told.
A lot is taken on assumption in the film, though. There is no world-building, at all. You have to know where you are, and what is going on, because nothing is explained. Why does the Ministry have a room full of dusty glass orbs? Where do they come from, and what are they for? You’re only going to find that out if you read the book. The Ministry itself was a far cry from the endless edifice of the book: it seemed to be limited to two or three sets.**
So: better than the last film, and surprisingly good. I’m still wondering how you order a phoenix, though, especially as there’s only one of it.*** If I ever get into any trouble like Harry, I’m going to rely on a little-known but powerful secret society of vigilante lexicographers: The Alphabetical Order. And one thing that had me puzzled for a while: the voice of the Ministry’s lift. I was sure I recognised it: probably from something on the radio, as it was a radio comedy kind of voice. It turned out to be someone called Daisy Haggard, who has been in an awful lot of good things I’ve seen on the telly over the past couple of years.
Right, now I’m off to print out sheets of sticky labels saying “Harry dies at the end!” to stick up around town in the morning. I’m not really bothered what happens at the end of the series myself, and I have no idea if he dies or not; but if I do that tomorrow morning, it’s bound to look plausible.****
* The Plain People Of The Internet, in chorus: Like this post, you mean?
** Although, to be honest, I can’t remember if as much of the book’s action takes place in the Ministry’s main foyer as the film’s seems to, and I’m not going to look it up. I did enjoy the foyer’s architecture, though, because it reminded me of original Underground Group architecture.
*** I can’t seem to find any reference to there only ever being one phoenix at a time – myself, I remember reading it in The Box Of Delights, which isn’t exactly authoritative.
**** I’m not really going to do it. But it’s a very tempting idea.
In which we wonder what they were on
In the news today: government ministers smoked cannabis, but there’s nothing wrong with that, because they only tried it once or twice and they didn’t particularly enjoy it.
What puzzles me, though, is that they all seem to have said they did it “at university”. It’s fine for them to admit taking cannabis when they were 18 or 19 – but did none of them, really, never come across it earlier? Maybe they’re scared of being compared to David Cameron, who smoked cannabis when he was 15, and suffered the terrible punishment of not being allowed to leave school for a whole week. Certainly, at my school, about ten years later, cannabis use was widespread, and kids would frequently nip off to hide in the culvert for a quick smoke on their lunch break. Maybe the answer is that Labour teenagers, back in the 80s, were just too dull to realise the drugs were there.
In which people refuse to be in the wrong
Or, the support call from hell.
I will summarise. A known nuisance. She says she’s reporting an error that she’s told me about many, many times before. I, of course, have never heard of the error message she’s reporting. I tell her the general resolution steps: click on X, Y and Z in that order. It doesn’t work, so I ask her to reboot her computer and phone back.
She phones back, ten minutes later. “I did Q, Y and Z, like you asked me to…”
I ask her to repeat, to confirm she isn’t confused.
“Yes, you definitely told me to do Q, Y and Z.”
“I’m sorry, but I thought I asked you to do X, not Q?” For one thing, Q doesn’t take you to a place you can do Y. So if you did that, you’re clearly lying about having done anything at all.
“I know what you told me to do – you definitely asked me to do Q. Now, can you just fix my computer instead of arguing about you said this and that?”
I despair, sometimes. I wonder how people who don’t listen to anything they’re told, who expect the world to organise itself around them for their own benefit, ever get to where they are in life.
In which we notice the details
… noticing little details.
I had my hair cut yesterday, for the first time since October.* Sitting in the salon chair,** mind idling, I noticed the tattoo on the foot of the woman in the next chair: “Gemini, 24-5-1981″ in copperplate. My hairdresser’s arms were covered in long, fine, blonde hair. As she was rather thin, I wondered to myself if it was a form of lanugo. It would have been rude to ask.
My hair, incidentally, looks barely any different to before the cut.
* the last time I had my hair cut, I was dumped the following day. Not that the hair cut had anything to do with that; and not that I’m superstitious or anything.
** Yes, I paid for the proper salon treatment, rather than the trim-it-a-bit-for-a-fiver you get at a barber’s shop. The head-massage stuff is worth it.
In which we wonder if an editor might help
Mike Troubled Diva recently posted a set of lecture notes on: going from blog to book. It’s an interesting read, and touches on one element that I, struggling to come up with something to put down on screen, have been thinking about a lot lately. If you’re a blogger, you don’t have anyone to restrain you, or point you in the right direction.
Watch any TV show, more or less, and you’ll see “Script editor” in the credits. Comic books and graphic novels, too, will often have a script editor credited somewhere. Books don’t usually mention it – books don’t have credits – but pretty much anything published in the traditional way will have been mangled by an editor at some point, and usually much improved in the process. It’s an old adage that the reason famous writers’ books get worse with time is that they gain enough earning power to tell the editor to stop. Look at how JK Rowling’s books have got slower, baggier and less well-paced over time.*
This blog is (on the whole) completely unpaced, unstructured, rambling and undirected, with frayed edges where there are parts missing, things I should have written but didn’t, stories I left hanging in midair. Most of the individual posts are that way, too. Because I don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off, to poke me, to say: “why don’t you write about X” or “why don’t you post that today, that next week?” There’s no one to say “that post was rubbish!”** Maybe, if this blog did have a script editor, it would be a rather better-quality one. I’m not sure what would happen to its frayed edges, though. I rather like a frayed edge now and again.
* Especially the big jump in length and pacing between books 1-3 and 4-7.
** The plain people of the internet, all together in chorus: “One … Two … Three … THIS POST IS RUBBISH!”
In which FP has nothing to say for once
I’m waiting for that little spark to strike. I’m not sure why it hasn’t. Maybe it’s the lack of energy at the moment. I feel drained.
Maybe I should just write about: how beautiful the sun is on the river, even with dark clouds grumbling overhead and promising a downpour.
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